Community input needed on unmarked African-American graves at Woodland Cemetery

Clemson University scheduling virtual meetings to get community input on unmarked African-American graves at Woodland Cemetery 

The Community Engagement Council established by Clemson University to provide feedback and input into the preservation and memorialization of 604 unmarked graves in Woodland Cemetery has been hard at work since the start of the year.

Led by Dr. Rhondda Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University, the board is comprised of members from local communities in Clemson/Central, Anderson, Pendleton and Seneca/Oconee County areas. They are seeking local residents’ help in identifying who might be buried in this historic and sacred site.

Members from the Pendleton community are Sandra Gantt, City Council Member; Terence Hassan, Director of Pendleton Foundation for Black History and Culture; and Yvette Jones, Board Member, Pendleton Foundation for Black History and Culture and Pendleton Community Center.

The virtual meetings will be open to the public and anyone interested in attending should check the Town of Pendleton website for details.

Surveys using ground-penetrating radar in 2020 detected evidence of more than 600 unmarked graves in Woodland Cemetery. Many of the graves are thought to be those of enslaved people who worked at the plantation and later as sharecroppers and Black laborers, including convicted individuals involved in the construction of Clemson College from 1890 to 1915. The number of graves coupled with locations suggest the possibility that some may pre-date the period when the land was part of John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation from 1830 to 1865.

Anyone with information, especially about people they believe are buried in the unmarked graves in the cemetery, is asked to call (864) 656-8855 or email afamburials@clemson.edu.

Additional information about the project is available at https://www.clemson.edu/about/history/woodland-cemetery, a Clemson University website dedicated to telling the history of the gravesite, documenting the university’s role in Woodland Cemetery and giving voice to the African Americans who are buried there.

Inquiries about the operations of Woodland Cemetery should be directed to cemetery@clemson.edu or by calling (864) 656-5615.

White flags with pink ribbons mark the sites of recently identified unmarked graves in Woodland Cemetery.